Monday, January 11, 2010

Happy birthday Alice Paul!

Alice Paul, the suffragist leader and author of the original Equal Rights Amendment, was born 125 years ago today.

Paul was a true radical in her day, stopping at nothing in her quest for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing a woman's right to vote. The organization she co-founded in 1916, the National Women's Party, held demonstrations, parades, mass meetings, and picketed regularly outside the White House, the first political group to do so. When Paul and her fellow protesters were arrested for "obstructing traffic" outside the White House, they were thrown in prison. While incarcerated, the suffragists held a hunger strike and attracted much attention to their cause. The Nineteenth Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote, was finally passed in 1920.

Alice Paul's other great achievement, the Equal Rights Amendment, has sadly never been added to the US Constitution. Paul originally wrote the amendment in 1923. Congress passed the ERA in 1972 but it came up three states short of ratification. Since then, it has been reintroduced in every session of Congress. The amendment reads: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States on account of sex."

Some ideas of how to celebrate the life of the great Alice Paul:
  • Lobby your representatives in Congress to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Educate your community about the importance of the ERA.
  • Hold a viewing of Iron Jawed Angels, a movie about her fight for suffrage.
  • Visit the Sewall-Belmont House in Washington, DC, Alice Paul's former home and the headquarters of the National Women's Party.
  • VOTE. Nothing says "thanks for fighting for my fundamental civil rights" more than voting!
Image by Nina Allender via Sewall-Belmont House

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